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ANEMIC WORSHIP SINGING – ARE YOU MISSING TWO BASIC INGREDIENTS?

April 13, 2015

empty-church Are any of you concerned as I am about the state of singing in corporate worship in many churches. As noted in my book, there are different gatherings for Christian worship besides the local congregation, but this address is aimed toward the local body and its weekly worship gatherings. I am old enough to call it congregational singing, and am concerned at what I see and hear in many church environments in relation to this foundational activity. I have been concerned for some time, and have attempted through numerous means to help bolster congregational singing as I believe it to be a critical aspect of worship renewal and also a reflection of the depth to which our worship has been and is being regularly refreshed. I have come to a conclusion, and I simply must share. It is profound.

Are you ready for this? I have concluded that there are at least two ingredients needed for congregational singing in worship and they are……(drumroll with crescendo, decrescendo, crescendo….. to extend the dramatic impact) as follows.

  1. First you need a congregation. That’s right, you need a congregation to have congregational singing in worship. Although it sounds ridiculously obvious to mention, the fact is that a lot of congregation’s have relinquished their responsibility in worship singing through various means starting with simply choosing to not be present for corporate worship. The New Testament Greek word for church is Part of what it means to be ekklesia, “the called out ones,” is to gather forming the worshiping body. Scholars tell us that, like the Hebrew word, quahal, that one of its clear meanings is assembly. Wayne Gruden says “We can understand the purposes of the church in terms of ministry to God, ministry to believers, and ministry to the world.”[1] Ministry to God includes singing to Him, for Him, and about Him. The Apostle Paul follows his admonition to “make the best use of the time” (Eph 5:16) with his exhortation to be filled with the Spirit and to be “singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.” (vs. 19) If you aren’t present as congregation you cannot add to the worship singing. Have you ever noticed that churches build worship spaces to seat about half of their church membership? What does that say? I recognize some growing congregations meet in multiple services to accommodate the worshiping crowd using the same space multiple times, but many more simply have no expectation that any more than half the congregation will be together on a given Sunday. I fear that our pragmatist marketing attempts to attract non-attenders and make worship all about them, coupled with the fierce individualism that is a hallmark of present day attitudes have served to make consumers of spiritual buzz, and not disciples of Jesus Christ. Scripture does not separate coming to Christ from becoming part of His Bride. Participation in the assembly as an act of our discipleship is a given. (Hebrews 10:25)
  1. The second ingredient needed is singing. A packed house is a packed house and it has the potential in and of itself to inspire leaders and members. If, however, the full room never translates into the sights and sounds of worshiping people engaged with head and heart in biblical worship singing, then what do we have but a crowd of spectators? Again, seems leaders may be getting what they expect. Now, on this point I have to agree wholeheartedly with several of my colleagues who have joined in addressing numerous issues that thwart singing participation by the congregation (see links below). I wonder, though, just how much leaders actually allow, indeed expect, members to hold up the sounds of singing. This is noted as well in some of the links, but I want to underscore the need. It is far too easy for Worship Music Leaders to just make the music for them (the congregation). It is much more comfortable than taking the risk of assured discomfort in the momentary anemic sound of people not doing what is asked of them. However, in order to call the congregation to its responsibility of admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, it is my contention, they simply must feel the weight of that responsibility. Dropping the props and handing them the proverbial ball actually works. I have tried this often. It is disturbingly uncomfortable and awkward – until, that is, members begin to feel that discomfort enough to fill in the void with their own vocalization. I can testify that this CAN be done. We did not lull them into a couch potato mindset overnight and they are not likely to bounce out of it in an instant either, but give patient but firm and steady leadership and you may once again hear the pews alive with sounds of singing. Consider:

Do you and your people even know what it sounds like for them to be fully invested in singing?

Do they know what it feels like to sing in such a way that they sense their individual voice within the whole composite sound of corporate singing done by their own congregation?

In other words, do they know what we are aiming toward? Hopefully leaders know what you want your choir, band, or praise group to sound like musically. What about your congregation? Do you know? Do they know? Do all members of your choir, band, praise group, sound man, and/or senior pastor know what sound we are listening for when the congregation is singing? *This, I believe to be a starting point in the matrix of change toward giving the congregation back its song. A first clue for me is when platform players and singers want more of themselves in the monitor. Wha????? We need less of me and more of us!

If your worship singing needs a tuneup, how about starting by evaluating the two most basic ingredients needed for congregational singing? A gathered congregation, and participatory singing.

Links mentioned above:

They Are Not Singing Anymore by Mike Harland

Is Your Church Singing? Send in a Canary! By David Manner

Nine Reasons Your Congregation Won’t Sing by Kenny Lamm

How Loud the Worship Team? By Bob Kauflin

[1] Wayne Gruden, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Zondervan 1994) 867.

SING THE DRAMA!

March 30, 2015

Tenebrae Candles I have a favorite saying when I am in my music leader/director mode, and it is simply this, “Music is drama!” Sometimes when church choirs have worked hard to master notes, rhythms, vocal technique, blend and balance, they forget the dramatic impact intended by the use of music. Thus my little saying. I sometimes follow it with a reminder that if the words were enough on their own we might just speak the message. All this is an attempt to prompt singers and players to connect to the drama of a song and its music. For music to express something, there is drama. The most fundamental aspects of the musical art, like tension and release, discord and consonance, suspension and resolution, soft and loud, rhythmic synchronization, and effective melodic line, all serve to highlight the drama that is music. This is all strong reason as to why music is such an effective tool in expressing the marvels of the Gospel. Like music itself, the Gospel message is characterized by drastic shift from discontinuity to resolution. Jesus has given to His disciples (us) the ministry of reconciliation.

Sunday evening I was able to slip in for our church’s Palm Sunday musical presentation that was titled, “Into the Darkness.” The theme helped to mark the beginning of Holy Week, although the musical service itself embraced many aspects of the whole story, including reflections on the cross, the resolution brought about by resurrection power, and even the anticipation of the Lord’s return. In fact, an emotional highlight, no doubt, was the final stanza of the last hymn sung in the service, Horatio Spafford’s It Is Well with My Soul, as we sang our heart’s desire,

And Lord, haste the day when our faith shall be made sight!

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll.

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend

Even so, it is well with my soul.

This hymn seems to always pack a powerful punch for worshiping communities, but perhaps never more so than following a lengthy contemplation of the depth of human sin, the desperation of the human condition, and reflection on the cost of our salvation. In a service where each song is followed by the extinguishing of another candle there is a growing sense of that darkness, as well as a deepening hunger for light, for resolution. The hymn provides some sense of build up within its own verses, when “sea billows roll,” “Satan buffets,” and “my sin” provides the very need for Christ to regard my “helpless estate,” and to shed His own blood. This service of worship, however, went beyond the four verses of the hymn, drawing our penitence into focus over most of the service. Certainly beautiful music permeated the whole service, but without morbidity a strong sense of our need for salvation set the tone of much of the service, adding to the welcoming thought of our Lord’s return as sung by congregation in It Is Well.

I recall one of my first Tenebrae services that I led when serving as Music Minister. Most of that service was predominated by minor keys, and participants departed the dimly lit sanctuary in silence. I received complaint notes from a few church members. For a long time I kept one note scribbled on a bulletin that simply said, “I do not come to church to feel bad.” I guess the wait between that Good Friday service and the coming Resurrection Sunday was more delayed gratification than some were prepared to accept. We Baptists are less conditioned to such expectations than some of our more formal liturgy friends. Regardless, the season of Lent and Easter provides grand opportunity for worship to profoundly proclaim its central feature, the Gospel. Placing the truth of this gospel on the lips of worshipers provides opportunity for powerful worship that not only proclaims this good news to all who hear and expresses praise to the One we worship, but it also helps to form those worshipers into Gospel people. Effective corporate worship singing aids our fulfillments of Christian living, loving God, loving people, going and telling this good news in the power of the Christ Who is with us always. Sing the drama!

THE WONDER OF SUNDAY MORNING

March 24, 2015

Every Sunday, a deacon unlocks the door, an usher picks up a stack of bulletins, a pastor kneels in the study, and they wait. Soon, the parking lot fills, and people from all walks of life stream into the building for weekly worship.

They are not paid to be here. They are not forced to be here. Yet they come and serve in beautiful ways.

In the nursery, volunteers change diapers without complaint, step in to mediate the toddlers’ dispute over sippy cups, and dole out a weekly supply of animal crackers.

Down the hall, men and women open their Bibles and discuss the meaning and application of God’s inspired Word. A doctor with more than a decade of education in medicine takes notes as a construction worker who never went to college exercises his gift in teaching the Scriptures. The small groups then rearrange their classroom space in preparation for the homeless women they will shelter during the week.

The choir and praise team are warming up and running through the songs they will lead in the upcoming service. The hallways are buzzing. Greeters seek out newcomers, teenagers gather near the front of the sanctuary, and the anticipation builds: the worship is about to begin.

This is a place of music, where hundreds of voices soar to the ceilings and the echo of praise hovers over the people. A man who can’t carry a tune lifts his kid up on the pew in front of him and sings along anyway. Some raise their hands. Some kneel. Some close their eyes. Some look to heaven. Various postures, all united in worship.

Then they pray — for the lost, the sick, the hurting in their community. In this moment, the people’s concern for their city is like the ocean tide gathering up its waves of compassion into this place of prayer before rolling their acts of mercy into the city throughout the week.

The pastor opens the Bible. The sermon exalts the Savior and exhorts the saints. Yes, they are saints. All of them, even with their ongoing sins and struggles, their failures and flaws — they are washed in the blood of a spotless Lamb. Forgiven, adopted, and made new. This is not a crowd; it’s a church – a people who have been called out of the world and changed by grace.

From the feast of God’s Word to the feast of the Lord’s Table: now they eat and drink to the glory of God. Christ’s body broken for them. Christ’s blood shed for them. Time stands still, for in this moment, these people are carried back to their Savior’s cross and ushered forward to His return.

The dawn of resurrection morning has given way to the sunlight of noonday. Energized and equipped, the blood-bought saints go out. It may seem like the service is over, but the truth is, their service is just beginning.

GREAT MUSICIANS TEACH US GRATITUDE

January 13, 2015

Lari Goss  Two uniquely influential Gospel musicians passed from this life in the past week. I am sorry to say I never had the privilege of meeting either one of them personally. Gospel singer, Jason Crabb, wrote about a time when he sang My Tribute with Andre’ Crouch himself accompanying at the piano bench, and it made me wonder what that could have possibly felt like. Writer/arranger/publisher, Craig Adams’ reflections in a blogpost (WorshipLife) about his interactions with Lari Goss stirred vicarious responses as well. Undoubtedly, the names Andre’ Crouch and Lari Goss will be remembered for a long, long time for the legacy that each one left. Each influenced the shaping of music expression in the church. Indeed, not only African American churches of the Church of God In Christ (COGIC) denomination of which Crouch was a part, but churches of many faith traditions have been known to sing with soul the rich Gospel expressions of Crouch’s songs like Soon and Very Soon, The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power, Bless His Holy Name, Through It All, Jesus Is the Answer, Let the Church Say Amen, and I’m Gonna Keep on Singing, just to name a few. And what choir has never done Goss’s Cornerstone, or sung or played any of the hundreds (or more) arrangements, orchestrations, or musical treatments with Lari Goss’s mark on it?

Though I did not know these men they left part of themselves with me. I never sang with Andre Crouch at the piano, but certainly joined that Gospel spirit listening to recordings of his group, the Disciples. As a director I tried to help choirs full of Anglo singers to inject some of that Black Gospel feel when singing an arrangement of The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power. I never sat in a studio while Lari Goss did one of his masterful orchestrations, but I have stood before instrumentalists and helped them discover some of those soaring, or sometimes subtle, countermelody lines that help to paint a particular lyric, or that highlight a nice musical progression. My not knowing these men personally has not prevented me from experiencing their lives through the gifts they offered, the craft they honed, the art they shared. The same could be said about all those who have contributed to the master catalogue of music of the church, the music of Christian worship. In fact, I find that the greatest Christian musicians have a sense of humility born in the recognition that what they are involved in is in every sense a gift from God. Music itself is a gift. Their own talent is a gift. The health and well-being it takes to be able to make music is a gift. Their upbringing and composite influences on their lives are all gift.

I listened to an NPR interview with Andre’ Crouch in which he talks about the influence of Gospel organist, Billy Preston, and about the Winans, and others. The same kind of spirit is exemplified in reflections offered by Lari Goss. The spirit of genuine gratitude is a hallmark of those who are confident in who God made them to be, and in the gifts He has imparted to them. I also have found them to exude an appreciation for the volunteer church musicians who sing and play their music and use it to express worship ministry. These attitudes endear the greats to us all the more, and enhance the authenticity of their giftedness, and their witness. A thankful spirit is clearly called for in the Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 passages that are foundational to any good theology of music as ministry. I find that a genuinely thankful spirit sweetens the song itself. When we sing with gratitude in our hearts, the thankfulness is exuded in our singing. The attitude is first and foremost directed to the Master Giver Himself, the One we worship and praise, but it also spills over to those who are making music with us, those who are playing while we sing, or singing while we play, or writing to give us songs to sing, or editing so that what we sing will make sense lyrically and musically. The spirit of gratitude extends to those who listen and join the spirit of thanksgiving. Whatever place we hold at the music-making table it will be made sweeter through the faithful practice of a thankful heart. As we age the gratitude just deepens. Life experiences and emotions deepen the creases in our faces, and remind us again and again that every minute of life is a precious gift. With a prayer for ministering grace we often reach for music in our times of depression or exuberance, and often find solace there, especially when the song carries with it a sense of thankfulness.

 

 

SINGING GOOD NEWS AT CHRISTMAS

December 15, 2014

Christmas-program-angel-m So I am walking into a card shop to look for an appropriate Christmas card and my ears perk up to the mishmash of seasonal music that is playing in the store. Most of the tunes are the usual “feel good” attempts like I Saw Mommy Kissin’ Santa Clause, Frosty the Snowman (Christmas??), and some rendition of Jingle Bell Rock (Christmas??). Though my piety is duly disgusted, I catch myself kinda whistling – humming – and head bobbin’ along. One of the medleys morphs into an upbeat version of Angels We Have Heard on High with its familiar Latin refrain, “glo……ria in excelsis deo!” As I’m listening, I’m thinking, really? What arranger thought, “these things go together?” Of course, I am also thinking that if this muzak was playing in my house (not too likely), I would be either singing along, or coaxing one of my grandkids to dance a jig with me, especially to that Jingle Bell Rock song. I refuse to be the Grinch or Scrooge who threatens coal in the stockings if anyone in the household mentions the guy in the red suit, or enjoys the generic “holiday” songs. With all that is truly bad in our world, I find it absurd to waist my righteous indignation on debunking children’s belief in a costumed legend who brings them toys if they behave. Dare I say that I am less concerned that store clerks say “Happy Holidays” than I am that so few of us Christians convey the true spirit of genuine desire for everyone to have a merry Christmas? And this brings me to the point of this posting. Our worship needs to be centered in the truly good news of the Gospel.

The Advent – Christmas season provides a perfect time for us to move definitively in the direction of presenting good news, and preparing to live it out. Whether we are stirred more by the details and miracle of Jesus’ first coming, or urged to action by the anticipation of His eminent return, we simply must center our worship in the metanarrative that pronounces His activity throughout, and our place in Gospel living in the in-between. Let us find and point to the relentless hope that is voiced in every Christmas carol we sing, and foster heart and mind connection to the Gospel truth! But be careful, because we likely have some pretty serious confessing to do if we are going to declare hope that is to be fleshed out with our ministries. But fear not! Our confessing helps proclaim our position, not as those who have grasped grace, and thus no longer have need. Rather, we are those in the grasp of grace, and thus overflowing with gratitude, must proclaim it! Let’s look at lyrics of just a couple of Advent-Christmas hymns, and consider our seasonal worship, confessional and celebrative:

             Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

            Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

What am I doing to help souls know their worth? Do we seek to share the hope of soul-worth with those who do not look, think and act like us?

 

            Truly He taught us to love one another

            His law is love and His gospel is peace.

            Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother

            And in His name all oppression shall cease.

How well am I loving others? Are we more consumed with pointing out people’s oppression than we are sharing with them the freedom for which we say they long?

 

            O come, Desire of nations bind all people in one heart and mind.

            Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease; Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

Am I an agent of peace, or a promoter of division by political, social, or economic argument? Do we value God’s peace above our way?

 

            For lo! The days are hast’ning on, By prophets’ bards foretold

            When with the ever-circling years comes round the age of gold;

            When peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling,

            And the whole world give back the song which now the angels sing. 

If I believe in a returning and reigning triumphant Savior, then do I also reflect that confidence in the face of all the negative around me? Is the church dispensing religion or grace? Do our tactics indicate we are about saving lives, building Kingdom or cornering market share?

So many wonderful Christmas hymns and carols reinforce the stream of eternal praise for Christ, as Holy Child, as Incarnate Word, as Hope for all the world forever and ever. I have sung so many of these carols and hymns my whole life, yet different phrases, words, or refrains catch me each year, as if the first I have sung them. It is a season dripping with Gospel – good news!! So, let’s sing it! And then, let’s live it! Joy to the World! The Lord is come!

KEEPING TIME IN CHRISTIAN WORSHIP

November 30, 2014

Metronome  Sunday begins Advent. A very popular song from the late 1960’s went like this:

 Does anybody really know what time it is?
Does anybody really care?
If so I can’t imagine why
We’ve all got time enough to cry

The group Chicago recorded the hit song, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, written by keyboard player and lead vocalist, Robert Lamm. The top ten song called into question a kind of mindless obsession with the clock. Indeed, the frazzled lifestyle seems a far cry from the spirit of the psalmist who said, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

There is a kind of tyranny in the busy-ness of our world. Christians far too easily get caught up in a push to monetize all resources God has given us, or worse yet, forget that each moment is, in fact, a gift. We can easily find ourselves no longer using time, but rather being ruled by the clock. Sadly, many believers seem ill-equipped to deal with the conflicting worldviews that shape values associated with time. Dorothy Bass offers an illustration of Christians sitting around talking about how much work they have to accomplish through the weekend. Each one lamented they would be unable to join in Sunday worship because of their workload and deadlines. She says it hit her they were planning to break the command, “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” She noted she could not imagine sitting around hatching plans to violate other commands, “I’m planning to take God’s name in vain;” “I’m planning to steal something;” “I’m planning to commit adultery.” Missing out on regular worship, however, seems to be an anticipated, almost “acceptable” sin. It strikes me that we even build our sanctuaries, our houses of worship, anticipating that at least half of our congregation(s) will not be present for regular gathered worship on any given Sunday. Hebrews 10:24-25 calls for better participation in regular repeated gatherings.  

The Bible shows us God’s care for time very early in its revelation of the grand story. By separating darkness and light He created day and night. Dorothy Bass says that in the hymn of Genesis 1:1 – 2:4, time’s first measure is counted out: “a first day, a second day, a third day,” and so forth. Continuing the musical metaphor she says, “On the beat, God creates; on the offbeat, God pauses to see that what has been created is good. Indeed, after the last beat, at the end of the sixth day on which God has created animals and human beings, the work is declared very good, and on the seventh day, the Sabbath, God rested. There is no pause, because all is pause.”[1] And yet, even in the Sabbath rest there is an understood pulse that keeps marking time.

A steady beat is the foundation of good rhythm. As a music leader I can tell you that making music gets tough when some of the music-makers lose their sense of rhythm. If someone gets the time signature wrong, drags the tempo, or drops a beat, whether it’s the director, organist, pianist, drummer, or singers, it becomes a challenge to stay together. Instead of serving as an encouraging inspiration, music can become a source of frustration and discouragement, rather quickly. We would say that it is important, especially for those leading the music, to keep time. But keeping time in worship has to do with much more than just making music, and the responsibility extends far beyond those up-fronters who give leadership.

Christian worship is built upon steady rhythmic pulse. There is a pulse in the alternation of Revelation and Response within the liturgy of worship, whether formal or informal. There is a pulse in the repeated steady beat of weekly worship, Sunday by Sunday. There is a pulse in the recurring cycle called the Christian year that pulses with the seasons that celebrate the major events of the Gospel story. Repeated patterns of regular worship together keep us in time with what God desires to do in the world. Measures of beats go together to form sections of the song, if you will, that remind us of what God has already done, while at once helping us anticipate what He will do in coming days. The season of Advent incorporates both.

Recognized as the beginning of the Christian Year, Advent prepares us for Christmas and also refreshes our anticipation of Christ’s return. The observance and celebration of Advent holds great opportunity for spiritual emphasis in our homes and church congregations through the reading of scriptures, the re-telling of the nativity, and through the imaginative anticipation of what is to come when Christ returns. More and more evangelical churches have an Advent wreath in their sanctuary and observe the four Sundays leading up to Christmas by the lighting of candles, enhanced by scripture readings and carol-singing. The same kinds of activities in the home can strengthen the message and anticipation of Christmas and may help our families understand that we are a part of God’s grand story. Leaders do well to encourage this kind of home worship by providing Advent worship guides for home, posting links for Christmas songs listening aids, as well as preparing special musical and social events for the church family and for outreach in their communities announcing Joy to the World! Maintaining and refreshing these traditions help us keep time in worship. Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come!

[1] Dorothy C. Bass Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time (San Francisco: Josey-Bass 2000) 47.

WORSHIP DIVORCED FROM GOD

September 23, 2014

hugging-myself  You may have heard the old joke about the visiting preacher whose ego was as large as his boisterous personality. Following an evening preaching service the worship minister had the privilege (aka assignment) of taking the guest preacher out to eat. From the time the music guy picked him up at the door the preacher talked about himself non-stop. He went on and on about his sermon in that night’s service. He boasted about the evidence that everyone loved it, and how this was the response he received everywhere he preached. After the two had been seated at a table at the restaurant and had ordered their meal the music leader was hopeful the conversation might change directions. Sure enough, as soon as the waiter left the table the preacher looked at the musician and said, “well, enough about me. Let’s hear from you. How did you like my sermon tonight?”

The bloated egotism expressed by this preacher is easy for us to spot as self-absorption, and pretty easy to dismiss (although many of us have known characters similar to this one). We may be less able to identify some of the attitudes that creep into our own thinking as worshipers in search of a god that makes us feel good.

ROMANTICISM: WORSHIP DIVORCED FROM GOD

In thinking about worship we have often heard the reminder, “It’s not about you, or it’s not about me.” My observation is that even those of us who use this mantra may still struggle against the tendency to make worship very much about ourselves. Particularly in modern evangelical worship there is a strong inclination to elevate the subjective experience as the controlling factor in the approach to worship. We want to feel a certain way about God. Some popular worship music singers and songwriters use romantic terms to define relationship with God. Knowingly, or unknowingly, leaders of romanticized worship attempt to lead us toward “falling in love” with God, and experiencing worship in a certain way. “Worship guided by romanticism will eventually be divorced from its proper object, God, and become fixed on some subjective state of mind or heart.”[1]Thomas Long, among others, reminds us, ‘God does not always move us, and everything that moves us is not God.”[2] When we too closely associate spiritual worship of the living God with a particular feeling, then we naturally substitute searching out that feeling with seeking God. What’s more, we may attempt to hold others to a sort of feeling standard. We may expect others to either describe or express their worship with similar feeling terminology. Being in the presence of those who perceive worship in this way may leave us with a sense of condescension, as if that feeling is “real worship,” whereas an absence of such feeling means worship is somehow lacking. These implications may well lead us away from the biblical teaching of worship in spirit and truth.

We believe that in biblical worship our whole selves are engaged; mind, body, and spirit. We know that affections as well as thinking are to be engaged. It is for certain that worship may well stir our emotions. Yet even when emotions are stirred, the question remains – Is our worship about God or about us? What’s more, much of our contemporary worship music, as does some music of the Gospel genre, concerns itself only with worship at the level of individual self and God, seldom moving worship’s focal point to place worshipers as a unified body in worship, or joined with the Church universal. Lack of implication of Trinitarian activity in most modern worship music would bring into question the theological soundness and beg the question if the worship is centered in personal experience, even bringing participants to a point of worshiping worship.

Idolatrous worship takes on many forms, but perhaps no other controlling point for worship tempts us any more strongly than one which places us as the purpose for the worship. Biblical teaching is clear that nothing is to be enthroned in worship other than the living God. That certainly includes romanticism, which is worship where we have enthroned self.

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;
May I devote my life wholly to Thee:
Watch Thou my wayward feet,
Guide me with counsel sweet;
Purer in heart, help me to be.

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;
Teach me to do Thy will most lovingly;
Be Thou my Friend and Guide,
Let me with Thee abide;
Purer in heart, help me to be.

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;
Until Thy holy face one day I see:
Keep me from secret sin,
Reign Thou my soul within;
Purer in heart, help me to be.

–PURER IN HEART by Fannie E. Davidson (1877)

_________________________________________________________________________

[1] Michael Walters Can’t Wait Til Sunday: Leading Your Congregation Toward Authentic Worship. 59.

[2] Thomas Long Beyond Worship Wars: Building Vital and Faithful Congregations. 48


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